AN (AFP) - Iran opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who had refused to accept Mahmoud Ahmadinejads re-election, revealed on Monday in a major position shift that he now recognised the hardliner as president.
Karroubis son, Hossein, told AFP about his fathers new stance, making him the first opposition leader to explicitly accept Ahmadinejads victory in the June 12 poll which returned him to office for a second term.
I am still of the same belief that the election was unhealthy and massively rigged. But since the (supreme) leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) endorsed (Ahmadinejads victory), I believe that he is the head of the government, meaning he is the president, Hossein quoted his father as saying.
Hossein spoke to AFP when asked to confirm an earlier report by Fars news agency quoting his father as acknowledging Ahmadinejad to be the president.
Fars asked Karroubi whether he now recognises Ahmadinejad as president.
The ex-speaker of parliament, who won the fewest number of votes in the June election, replied: I still maintain that there were problems (in the poll), but with regard to your question, I should say that I recognise the president.
Karroubi, along with main opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, had earned the wrath of the Islamic republics hardliners over the past eight months for vociferously campaigning against Ahmadinejads re-election.
He was heavily criticised for alleging that several protesters who had demonstrated against Ahmadinejad were raped while in prison.
Karroubis new stance comes a day after his political party, Etemad Melli, said the cleric would back all the anti-government remarks he has been making since the election dispute erupted.
It is necessary for you to know that Mr. Karroubi is standing firm and tall and has evidence for all his comments, the party said on its website Sahamnews.org and had even called for permission to stage demonstrations.
Karroubi and Mousavi led the opposition movement despite Khamenei endorsing Ahmadinejads victory at a key Friday prayer sermon on June 19, just a week after polling day.
On July 1, reacting to the confirmation of the election result by the Guardians Council, which rules on election results, Karroubi called Ahmadinejads victory illegitimate.
I do not consider the government coming from this election as legitimate and will not participate in the endorsement ceremony, he had said ahead of the official ceremony to endorse Ahmadinejad as president for a second term.
Iranian political analyst Mohammad Saleh Sedghian told AFP on Monday that Karroubis latest stance was an indication of moves towards reconciliation between hardliners and reformists.
We find that they (opposition groups) are leaning towards recognising the Ahmadinejad government, but they keep objecting to the mechanism in which the election was held, Sedghian said.
The trend is towards reconciliation, which the reformists and several moderates have called for.
The post-election unrest against Ahmadinejad led by Karroubi and Mousavi saw hundreds of thousands of demonstrators take to the streets in protest against the president and sometimes even Khamenei.
The demonstrations, which erupted soon after the election, shook the very pillars of the Islamic regime and split the nations clergy.
Protesters have taken every opportunity since to stage anti-government demonstrations, the latest on Ashura.
Dozens of Iranians have been killed and wounded in such protests since June, and hundreds have also been put on trial accused of attempting to revolt against the regime.